The Roebuck Surname Origin


In researching the ancestors of Robert the emigrant, initially the spread of the surname was considered in a bid to locate Robert who was born about 1650 and emigrated in 1674.
Subsequently the research centred on Darton, but spreading out to try and identify when his ancestors moved Parishes and when they moved into Darton. The geographical spread that had occurred up to the middle of the 17th century is shown on the map. To see the map click on the thumbnail.
Studying old collections of deeds is not a straight line exercise. It's not so much what you are looking for, as what you find.
In the course of the search much was found that did not relate directly to Robert's descendents, but as a surname study was invaluable original material.
From this research it has become possible to hypothesise on the origin of the very first Robuck to have lived in Yorkshire, or indeed anywhere within Britain.

Castleshaw Area Photographs

In researching this section it was necessary to visit the Castleshaw area, which must be one of the most beautiful parts of 'old' Yorkshire. This area remains unspoiled and not yet discovered by tourists, unlike Holmfirth. (See the Graveship of Holme pages). For this reason it has been decided to include a selection of photographs to help take you back to the time of the early middle ages, one thousand years after the departure of the Romans. This has been acieved by linking the photos to a walk around the area starting and finishing at Delph. To see the photographs click on the thumbnail.

The first Thousand Years AD

During the first millennium surnames had not developed and people would be referred to by given names, nick-names, their trades or their origins or a combination of them.
The story of the first Roebuck starts with the Romans who occupied most Britain during the first 400 years AD constructing roads and fortifications.
Most of the physical evidence is consigned to archaeology, but some of the fortifications and roads were developed through the subsequent centuries. Others decayed into oblivion.
Significantly for our story are the developed fortifications of Chester, Manchester and York, and the now decayed fortifications at Castleshaw and Meltham.
The Greater Manchester Archaeological unit of the University of Manchester published a review of the Roman advance into Northern Britain in 1986 and in particular into the Castleshaw area.
The route of many of the old Roman roads is not conclusive, but the route from Manchester to York appears to pass close to the foothill of Robuck Low and into the lost valley of Castleshaw, completely surrounded by the hills and ridges of the Pennines Click on the thumbnail to see a map of the Roebuck Low / Castleshaw area as it would have been in Roman times, with the route of the walk superimposed.
On the other side of the Pennines, to the East was the Roman fortification at Meltham and the ancient fortification of Almondbury, set on a prominent hill. Almondbury is clearly visible from the ridge above Castleshaw, now called Standedge. From the this vantage point the Romans would have been able to see the beacons of York and Castleford, both major Roman fortified settlements.
The Roman road from Chester to York went through Manchester and Castleshaw and would have roughly followed the route of what are now the modern roads A62 and A64. Taking in Marsden, Meltham, Almondbury, Newton Kyme and Tadcaster.
After the Romans left the area, the roads would have remained significantly connecting this Castleshaw area, now known as Saddleworth with Meltham and Almondbury as the earliest known crossing point of the Pennines.
After the Romans left the area was settled by the Saxons, of Scandinavian origin.
Although the Roman road was the earliest known crossing point, there were also numerous pack horse routes along the ridges, many of which are still visible today.

The Norman Conquest and the Domesday Book

The Norman conquest started in 1066 and by 1086 the date of the Domesday Book they had established and documented their rule. Saddleworth is mentioned as part of the West Riding Yorkshire within the Honour of Pontefract.
Also within the Honour of Pontefract were the towns and villages of Robuck Low, Meltham and Almondbury.
Roebuck Low was also the name given to the very prominant hill to the East of the village, overlooking Manchester and Chester to the West and Castleshaw and the Pennines to the East Although not apparently mentioned by name within the Domesday book it is reasonable to assume that the village and/or the name of the hill would have existed at that time. Robuck Low was in the Parish of Saddleworth, in the Honour of Pontefract.
Just over the Pennines to the South of Meltham lies the Graveship of Holme, but under the jurisdiction of the ancient Manor of Wakefield.
The formation of surnames was to begin some short time later, probably from about 1200 AD.
Click on the thumbnail above to see the map dated circa 1850 showing Roebuck Low (the hamlet), Roebuck Low (the hill), Roebuck Low Brook and Roebuck Lane.

1200 AD

It would have been about this date that the name Roebuck was first came into use.
The earliest references of the name so far discovered are of: Adam and Hugo Rabuckes of Pykehale within the Wappentake of Halikelde, probably near Skipton (Lancashire Assize Rolls 1246) and (Yorkshire Lay Subsidies 1301); Rogero Raboc of Hovingham in Rydale (Yorkshire Lay Subsidies 1301); Adam Robot and Matild Robuc (Yorkshire Lay Subsidies 1297); and Joanna Robuck the daughter of Simon Robuck of Netherthong, reference also to Adam Robuck (charter dated 1323). Another very early Netherthong reference was contained within a Grant from John the son of Henry Byssert to Thomas the son of Elyas Robuck for his homage and service.
From these references it is clear that by the late 13th Century the surname had become established.
The surname never developed in Halikeld or Rydale, but did develop in Sheffield and Netherthong.
The most likely hypothesis for all these occurrences would be that some time about 1200 AD a messenger or trades originating from Roebuck Low settled in Meltham. At that time Netherthong was part of Meltham. He would have been called John de Robuck or Simon de Robuck, changing to John Robuck or Simon Robuck.
It is possible that Simon Robuck of Netherthong is that person, but more likely it would be a preceding generation.
There is no evidence that the name developed around Roebuck Low.

After 1200 AD

At Meltham the name established itself and spread South to Sheffield and along the route from Meltham, within the Honour of Pontefract, to Pontefract; and by the 15th century, as far as Felkirk. See map.
The largest concentration of the name is between Meltham and Darton. Between Netherthong and Darton lies the Graveship of Holme, and the Parish of Kirkburton, part of the ancient Manor of Wakefield.
The Roebuck surname also developed quite separately between Sheffield and Tickhill.
The map shows the spread of the name by the middle of the 17th century.

The Future

Due to the hit and miss nature of the earliest records that have survived it may not be possible to prove this link to Roebuck Low or even to Netherthong, however modern technology might provide the answer.
This involves DNA analysis of known descendants and establishing a pattern to match with possible or probable descendents using the Y chromosome.


To see how this hypothesis fits in with other accounts of the Roebuck surname, see also the Surname History page and the page giving the account of Dr Redmonds.


Roebuck Surname by Dr. George Redmonds, "Origin of Surnames".

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